The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal by the New Zealand
Maori Council to block the Mighty River Power partial
The full court of five Supreme Court judges was unanimous in
its findings and the decision lets the government proceed
with the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power.
In their decision, Justice Dame Sian Elias, John McGrath,
Susan Glazebrook, William Young and Robert Chambers said they
had concluded "that the partial privatisation of Mighty River
Power will not impair to a material extent the Crown's
ability to remedy any Treaty breach in respect of Maori
interests" in respect of the Waikato River.
"For that reason, we decide that the appeal must be
The decision gives the Government the green light to proceed
with its flagship "mixed ownership model" policy under which
it hopes to raise $5 to $7 billion by selling up to 49 per
cent of Mighty River, Meridian Energy, Air NZ and possibly
It plans to sell shares in Mighty River in the second quarter
of this year.
The Maori Council bypassed the Court of Appeal and took its
case directly to the Supreme Court after losing in the High
Court in December last year.
It argued that the sale of Mighty River Power and other power
companies before issues around what ownership rights Maori
may have over freshwater and geothermal resources was a
breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Lawyers for the Crown had hoped the decision would be
delivered last Monday to allow the sale of up to 49 per cent
of Mighty River to go ahead according to the Government's
However the court which heard the case over two days on
January 31 and February 1 informed the Maori Council and
Crown lawyers it could not meet that timeframe.
The delay in delivering the decision has fuelled speculation
the five judges hearing the case had differing views.
Bill English, in a speech delivered this afternoon,
reiterated his commitment to the programme of power company
The float would be a "shot in the arm" for capital markets
and was expected to remain 80-90 per cent owned by New
Zealanders, English said in a lunchtime speech to the
Auckland Chamber of Commerce today.
"New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue for
shares," he said. "Including the Government's majority
stakes, ministers expect 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the
shares across the programme to be held by New Zealanders,
after the IPOs."
English said New Zealand needed to become a magnet for
investment. Although he conceded there was no "silver bullet"
to make that happen the Government had to be doing "hundreds
of small things well" to get the business environment right.
Yesterday, English said information from the Mighty River
Power float could lead to a revision of the overall estimates
of proceeds from the Government's SOE sales programme.
"It's possible the numbers will move around."
A $5-$7 billion figure was the estimate given in the May 2011
Budget for the sale proceeds of up to 49 per cent of four
state-owned enterprises (Mighty River Power, Genesis,
Meridian, Solid Energy) and Air New Zealand.
- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald